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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, October 03, 2018 1:00 am

Relaunch focusing on food, cocktails

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

The sound of a knife on the cutting board, a pile of green herbs underneath the blade, cuts through the music on the radio.

“Despacito,” the song of summer 2017, plays as the kitchen staff prepares the ingredients for the day.

But among the regular faces is a new one standing in the kitchen of 301 W. Jefferson Blvd. Aaron Butts, sporting his signature beard, ball cap and apron, is watching and waiting.

Waiting for the starring role in “Wine Down: The Sequel,” if you will.

The popular wine bar has become more restaurant than bar since opening in 2015. And this week, it debuts a new name and new chef.

After closing briefly to switch over, Wine Down became Copper Spoon on Tuesday.

Owner Gary Skeel and his management staff have been weighing the idea of rebranding for more than six months. It wasn't that Wine Down wasn't doing well but that the name no longer fit what the space had become – a restaurant that turned into a cocktail bar at night.

“It wasn't really until we had started doing some studying, market research, of perception of what Wine Down is ... how people perceived it before they even came in the doors,” Skeel says. “What we found was we had alienated a large portion of Fort Wayne that doesn't like wine and failed to realize we offered a lot more than wine.”

Trevor Scovel, general manager and beverage director, points to an extensive menu of cocktails and a wide selection of liquors. Skeel says that Scovel and his team has worked to elevate the bar program, pointing to their participation and success in national competitions.

“As we watched the bar program evolve and focus on fresh citrus, housemade syrups and doing everything the right way, and how much that improved the cocktail,” Skeel says. “That kind of catapulted (us) to look at that with our food program, sourcing those local, sustainable foods that can elevate a dish. The big thing for us was to find that person who is going to be able to do that and take the food to the next level.”

Butts has created a new menu for Copper Spoon, keeping true to his philosophy of highlighting local ingredients based on season and availability. Dinner selections will change on a more regular basis, rather than standard offerings with a few features. Instead, Scovel says, the entire menu will be like a list of features, which will keep it exciting for guests and staff.

It's also exciting for the two-time James Beard-nominated chef who took an extended break this year after closing the restaurant he opened with Sean Richardson – The Golden.

“The biggest change will be for the people who have never given us a chance,” Skeel says, reassuring long-time Wine Down fans that what they loved about it – including the wine selection and machines – will not be going away.

Bird hours set

“Eat with us.”

That's the motto of Lindsay and John Cheesebrew and now, after months of work, Fort Wayne can.

Bird & Cleaver Public House, 1603 Wells St. in the Wells Street Corridor, has been serving guests over the past couple weeks as part of a soft opening and hours are now listed on the Facebook page as 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

They wanted to create a place where diners could feel at home and enjoy simple, honest food. The menu will include sandwiches and salads and lots of vegetarian/vegan options. The K. F. Sea sandwich features buttermilk crispy tofu, dill pickle aioli, dill pickles and shredded iceberg lettuce. A recent feature included a tomato sandwich with produce from Hawkins Farm.

The Cheesebrews garnered attention with their blog, where they shared recipes such as Kimchi and Leek Noodles and Grilled Spice Chicken. They were hired to cater events and were then approached with an opportunity to open a restaurant.

Hall's news 'soon'

There might not be an opening date but the owners of Hall's Original promise that they will have “more information very soon.”

The restaurant on Bluffton Road has been closed for more than three months so that it could undergo an extensive renovation. The plan was to be closed for six weeks or so but the project took on a life of its own and the deadline was extended several times.

Fans of the family-style restaurant should be on the look out for previews and soft openings in the coming weeks, owners say.

Up for sale

John Maxwell, who brought Cajun food to the streets of Fort Wayne, is selling his popular food truck.

Maxwell announced that his last night on the Ragin' Cajun truck will be today, parking at Redeemer Lutheran Church on Rudisill Boulevard for the Wednesday night rally.

Almost immediately, the Facebook post garnered reaction from dozens of followers – a mix of sadness, disappointment and surprise.

Ragin' Cajun got its start six yeas ago, serving up dishes such as jambalaya, po' boys and crawfish and corn soup. It was one of the first food trucks to serve Fort Wayne, and Maxwell has been an integral part of that community and was a charter member of the local food truck association.

Maxwell is a New Orleans native who has been in the restaurant business more than 45 years – doing everything from mopping floors and scrubbing pots to managing fine dining establishments and owning restaurants and jazz clubs.

His popular Cajun fare will still be available at the Chapman's Tap Room in Columbia City.

Pedal City sale

Pedal City Beer Garden, 1215 W. Main St., is on the market for a cool $1.1 million.

The listing for the popular pub biking company and bar includes the real estate holdings for $500,000 and the business for $600,000.

The business has grown since it began five years ago, going from a service that gave friends and corporate groups the opportunity to pedal around Fort Wayne on bicycle bars. It now includes a brick-and-mortar bar with a full kitchen and party van.

The buyer would get a 3-way liquor permit, pedal pub bikes and trailers, surrey bikes, a 15-passenger van, food trailer, point-of-sale systems and karaoke equipment. CBRE Sturges is managing the listing.

PFW restaurant

Purdue University Fort Wayne students in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management will be cooking – and serving – up German contemporary cuisine at this semester's student-run restaurant.

Am Wald, inside the Holiday Inn Purdue Fort Wayne, will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 6, with the exception of Nov. 22 because the university's Thanksgiving recess.

Students manage all aspects of the operation, from creating the décor and planning the menu to ordering the supplies and generating profits, with an emphasis on the management of the restaurant. The end goal is to understand the “art of management” through cost, revenue and guest satisfaction.

Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are recommended; email or call 255-6538.

Veg'n Brew Fest

The first Fort Wayne Veg'n Brew Fest is set to take place Saturday at Headwaters Park. The city will join others such as Los Angeles and London in hosting this type of festival.

Through the Fort Wayne Veg'n Brew Fest, attendees will be able to experience a plant-only diet and vegan lifestyle firsthand and learn more about local and regional offerings.

Festival-goers will have the opportunity to sample plant-based (even gluten-free) foods including pizza, burgers, guacamole and chips, noodle bowls, sloppy joes, cheese, chili cheese fries, burritos, pastries and baked goods, ice cream shakes and more. There will also be live music, activities for children and demonstrations about how to cook plant-based foods.

The Fort Wayne Veg'n Brew Fest is free but there will be a cost for food and goods from vendors.

For more information about the festival, including a detailed schedule of the day's events and place to purchase VIP tickets, go to

Around town

• The Indianapolis-based sports restaurant Stacked Pickle, owned by former Indianapolis Colts player and Super Bowl champion Gary Brackett, is looking to continue its expansion across Indiana, hoping to open its first Fort Wayne location by the end of 2019, according to a news release.

• As temperatures start to drop, Metro Diner is serving up new dinner dishes to warm up with. New menu items include the Pulled Pork Mac Stack, a half-pound of BBQ pulled pork on top of macaroni and cheese and cheddar cornbread waffle topped with maple butter; Dijon-Glazed Salmon; and Chicken Parmesan.

• October is National Pasta Month, and Olive Garden is celebrating with its Never Ending Pasta Bowl. Guests can create more than 100 possible combinations, choosing from seven types of pasta, seven sauces and six toppings. Prices start at $10.99.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email or call 461-8304.